Murrieta Public Library Foundation, Inc.
A California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation
Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code

Murrieta Public Library Foundation

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MURRIETA: Budget constraints halt story times as well as passport processing, holiday events.

Children's story hours, passport services and holiday programs will not be offered at the Murrieta Public Library through the end of the year.

Library representatives announced this week that passport services will halt beginning Monday, and Director of Library Services Loretta McKinney said Thursday that all extra programs typically offered during the fall and winter also will be cut.

The cuts are directly tied to the city's budget shortfall, McKinney said, adding that the removal of the programs means the number of hours the library is open each week will not have to be reduced. "Sometimes you don't know what you've got until it's gone," McKinney said.

Although she said she was "heart-broken" over having to make the cuts, she said the situation could be worse: "Passports, in the scheme of things, are not so important."

Programs that will be cut include Mother Goose and Me, the Wee Wigglers and Sleepy-Time Stories. Additionally, the Knitting Club and programs offered for Halloween and Thanksgiving also will not happen this year, McKinney said. But a Christmas program may still pan out, she said.

"We are just finishing up Summer Reading this week, so this is it," she said. "There's no more programs until we can regroup."

Like every department in the city, the library has had to cut expenses and dip into reserves to balance its $2 million operating budget, which had been reduced from $2.4 million. The Murrieta City Council approved pulling nearly $100,000 from the library's $2.6 million reserve account to balance the budget.

To help bridge an overall $2.5 million budget gap the city is grappling with this fiscal year, library employees agreed alongside all other city employees to take the equivalent of one unpaid day off every four weeks. In addition, vacant positions at the library will remain unfilled.

McKinney said that between the vacant positions and the furlough hours employees are taking, the library is losing 140 manpower hours each week. And with as many as 1,200 people using the library each day, the employees who remain are left to handle as many as 570 books or materials a day.

On Friday, as people browsed through the library shelves and tinkered on the computers, the news that programs would end was met with resignation.

"Oh, that sucks," said Laura Roemmele, a Murrieta mother who browsed the children's books with her 2-year-old son. "Does it really take that much time to train someone to read a book to kids?"
While McKinney praised the core of volunteers who help in various ways at the library, she emphasized that volunteers aren't as reliable as employees who are paid to be there, that they must undergo training and still rely on library staff members to prepare most of the program materials. Although volunteers help out, they won't be used to run programs, McKinney said.

"Our programs are planned three months in advance," she said. "There's a lot of research. You have to pull your materials, study your materials, and set up on the day of the program. Program planning and implementation takes a lot more time than people realize, more than the 40 minutes that people are there."

The library's offerings have attracted people from across Southwest County, McKinney said. Sometimes bus loads of people from neighboring cities such as Hemet arrive in Murrieta to take advantage of a larger selection of materials and activities.

Linda Laster is one of them.

The Lake Elsinore woman said she brings her six grandchildren to the Murrieta library as many as four times a week because it's bigger and offers more programs than her local library. She said the loss of the programs will be a blow to her grandchildren.

"Especially around Halloween time, they have a lot of fun with that (program)," she said as her grandchildren played on computers in the children's section. "So they're going to miss a lot of that."

Other patrons, however, said they could understand that the library is paring back its services because industries across the board are doing the same. As long as the library remains open, they said, that's good enough.

"We like to come to the library to read books ourselves," said Jessica Frederick, a Murrieta mother of two. "So as long as that doesn't end, we'll be OK."

Becky Engle, president of the Friends of the Murrieta Library, said Friday that the nonprofit that is dedicated to helping the library succeed is far from giving up on efforts to reinstate the programs at some point.

She said the group will "do everything possible" to help.

"We are sorry that future library programs will be postponed until future better economic times," Engle said. "But that money is now available for other library needs."

NOTE FROM WEBMASTER: While this article isn’t about the Murrieta Public Library Foundation directly,
it IS an example of how your donations can help support programs such as the ones being cut because of budget issues.
click here to DONATE TO THE FOUNDATION so we can continue these programs

Library to Cut Children's Programs

By Nelsy Rodriguez, The Californian, 31 Jul 10